Fans get their wish but may pay for it
OK, fans. It's up to you now.
The Trail Blazer front office has responded to your wishes, or at least taken the first step. There's a little less poison in the Rose Garden now.
Are you storming the ticket office yet as a show of support?
Well, probably not.
In light of a very, very busy Trail Blazer week, I could write five columns, not just one. There are so many sides to the events of the last few days, but we'll try to touch on a few of them.
• Zach Randolph charged with driving while under the influence of intoxicants. The player this franchise is trying to build around gets himself into trouble. Again. Don't make the mistake of thinking this kid has a clean past. Hey, Bob Whitsitt drafted him, and Bob didn't select too many guys you'd want to invite over to dinner.
The fact that he sucker punched his own teammate last season in practice should have told you something. Oh, I forgot. It was Ruben Patterson, so apparently it was OK.
The bottom line on Randolph: He's an extremely talented and hardworking player with a huge upside. A potential All-Star for years. But off the court? I'd say you'd better surround him with some better people or he's at risk.
There's little doubt that a whole lot of players in the NBA choose to smoke marijuana, of course. My question is this: Why does Portland have so many players who get caught doing it?
• Where was Jerome Kersey? That's what I keep hearing Ñ as if anyone should expect that the former Trail Blazer player could somehow convert these players into solid citizens.
Listen, folks, if Kersey could turn devils into angels, he shouldn't be working for a basketball team, he should be down in Salem working at the state penitentiary. He has about as much chance of modifying their behavior as that silly code of conduct the team published last summer.
By the time players get to the NBA, they are what they are, for the most part. You can't change their personality, you can only change their address.
• Speaking of an address change, Bonzi Wells is traded to Memphis.
Recent actions by the players backed management into a corner. Fans were screaming for them to do something É anything. And so the Blazers accepted Wesley Person, a million bucks (yeah, Paul Allen needed that) and a draft pick for Wells.
You can maintain that it didn't matter what the Blazers got for him, that just getting rid of him is enough. It's perfectly understandable if that's your opinion. Just don't let anyone tell you that Portland got fair market value for Wells. They got future cap room and relief from a player whose behavior has bordered on psychotic.
• Why couldn't they get more for Wells? Easy question. Because the front office allowed the coach of the team, Maurice Cheeks, to substantially reduce Wells' trade value over the last three weeks.
Look, if a player you will want to trade sasses you, go to the front office and tell them they've got three weeks to trade him or you're going to make a fuss. But don't suspend him, bench him, publicly criticize him and, basically, hold him up to ridicule. All that served to do was cheapen him on the open market. It's not as if Cheeks hadn't put up with it previously, not only from Wells but from several other players.
I mean, can you imagine what Wells would have brought in a deal last summer, off that Dallas playoff series?
• What's up with that insulting 'Bonz' armband worn by Rasheed Wallace on Wednesday night? A tribute to a fellow punk, I guess Ñ and a slap in the face of the front office, the coach and the fans. I don't know that I've ever run across an athlete with less redeeming social value than Rasheed Wallace. With all those personalities fighting for playing time inside his head, why couldn't just one of them be inoffensive?
• Now what? Well, I believe the Bonzi Wells trade was some sort of benchmark moment in franchise history. From here on, folks, it can get a little bit scary.
Wells, who still has the potential to be an All-Star, was traded to a team that just might end up fighting Portland for a playoff spot. That first-round Memphis pick may not end up being such a great pick. Everywhere in town, I hear people actually excited about the possibility of dropping into the lottery.
Chill, Portland. That's not where you want to be. The lottery is like quicksand Ñ once you fall in, you can have a whole lot of trouble climbing out. Some teams languish there for years. You have to stumble into a lucky pingpong ball, and even then you have to pick the right player.
And I'm sorry, in this era when many of the best players in the draft are 18 years old and not quite ready to play, it's tougher than ever to make an intelligent first-round pick. Look at all the teams that passed on Randolph.
• So what's the bottom line? Well, Portland, you want to clean this team up and the first move has been made. Are you going to come back now? Are you going to stick around if this team doesn't make the playoffs? Or worse, if it stinks for a couple of years?
If the mandate continues to be cutting payroll while improving character, the front office is not going to have a lot of margin for errors in judgment.
Are you on board with that, Portland?